USA Today's Erica Hellerstein reports on the nightmare of socialist hell that northern California has turned into under the Democrat leadership: "...The first thing locals mention are the homeless who line the streets of densely populated city blocks. They sleep restlessly in RVs; in vast encampments under the freeway; in tents in front of artisan coffee shops; on scraps of cardboard and discarded mattresses; on subway car seats that lurch from one end of town to another.
This is the Bay Area in 2020, infamous for its homelessness crisis and rising inequality, where the gulf between the rich and the poor can be seen every day on the street. Tents are propped up in front of swanky restaurants and boutique gyms; the impoverished pick through techies’ trash; misery laps up against luxury, all while the elements rage — fires, earthquakes, drought.
I finally returned to this place, where I was born and bred, as a journalist last June, after spending years away reporting in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.
Yet my homecoming was fraught. Just a few months before I moved back, I lost my best friend to a traumatic and unexpected death. When I got there, I was overwhelmed by my grief and terrified of what I would find in a place built on 28 years of our shared history, from our local Thai haunts to Berkeley’s Tilden Park and the campgrounds of Big Sur.
But quickly the Bay Area itself demanded my attention. Spread across nine Pacific coast counties, it commands an immense physical space and, as home to Silicon Valley, it has a particular weight in the popular imagination.
It still looked the same to me as when I left in 2006, with its glorious ocean vistas, winding hills and abundant gardens, but it was profoundly different. Skyrocketing rents, homelessness, rising inequality, a migrating creative class — these are the concerns foremost on many local minds. Local and national news outlets debate whether San Francisco could be fixed at all — or claimed the city was irrevocably broken.
My job brings me into close contact with all of these problems, reacquainting me with my hometown through the occasional fog of grief. As I reported in my early months on the beat, the gap between the haves and have-nots in California is growing ever larger, with the top 5% of households in places like San Francisco County earning an average of $808,105 a year, compared with $16,184 for the lowest 20%.
More than half of Latinos, who make up nearly 40% of the state population, struggle to make ends meet at all.
Meanwhile, homelessness is on the rise. From 2017 to 2019, it increased by 47% in Oakland; in Sunnyvale, it surged by 147% over the same time period. The housing crisis is creating a new breed of supercommuters, who spend hours navigating the region’s maze of highways each day.In Santa Cruz County, I spoke to Ernestina Solorio, a single mother struggling to make ends meet on her farmworker salary. She stopped by an underground food bank for farm workers living in poverty who were too scared to go to public food banks for fear of immigration raids. I met her in an alleyway and spent the day talking to farmworkers who couldn’t afford to eat the food they harvest. One farmworker who volunteers with the food bank told me she has trouble surviving on her salary, stretching her paychecks between rent, her children, food and her mother back in Mexico. She knows what it’s like to earn so little, so she helps others.
Farther down the coast, in Half Moon Bay, I covered the city as it rallied behind nearly 200 farmworkers who were losing their jobs at a beloved Japanese American flower company in the face of an increasingly global, competitive flower market and changing regional economy. People who had been at the company for decades were helping their colleagues find hope and new jobs. They have to move forward, one worker told me."San Francisco is a tough place live for a lot of reasons.
Sky-high housing prices can make it nearly impossible to find a place. In February, a 1,000-square-foot home with no working plumbing and a pile of rotting mattresses stacked in the kitchen sold for more than $520,000.
Even tech moguls and startup founders are having trouble finding homes in an area where nearly every spare piece of real estate is gobbled up by the highest bidder. One firm estimated that a home buyer needs to make about $300,000 a year just to afford a median-priced abode.
But San Francisco isn't just perilously overpriced: It's also perpetually teetering on the edge of disaster. On October 18, the city of San Francisco participated in an annual earthquake drill called the Great California Shakeout, a dry run where more than 10 million people across the state practiced a "drop, cover, and hold on" earthquake survival protocol.
None of those people are quite old enough to remember this, but on April 18, 1906, a violent ~7.7-7.9 magnitude earthquake leveled the city into ruins. The minute-long quake ruptured 296 miles of California coastline, sparked three days of fires, and killed 3,000 people, leaving the bulk of the city homeless.
That was just 112 years ago — the geologic equivalent of the blink of an eye.
If earthquakes don't shake you, consider that the city is literally sinking into mud — and into trash in certain places.
Real-estate woes aside, here are the ways that scientists know living in the Bay Area is not for the faint of heart:
The well-known San Andreas Fault is just one of the seven "significant fault zones" the US Geological Survey (USGS) cites in the Bay Area. The others are the Calaveras, Concord-Green Valley, Greenville, Hayward, Rodgers Creek, and San Gregorio Faults.
People who live in the area experience small earthquakes and shakes all the time. But those aren't the rumbles that scare seismologists.
In 2007, the USGS determined that there was about a "63% probability of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake in the Bay Area" by 2037.
Estimates have only gotten worse since then. One recent report suggested that there is a 76% chance the Bay Area will experience a magnitude 7.0 earthquake within the next three decades.
Anything higher than a 7.9 on the San Andreas Fault line, which runs from Mendocino to Mexico, would put "approximately 100%" of the population of San Francisco at risk, while a 6.9 quake from the Hayward Fault could spell trouble for nearly everyone who lives and works there, according to the city.
The scientists warn the threat of a future earthquake like that "is real and could happen at any time."
The Earth is turning a little slower than usual right now, which puts extra squeeze on tectonic plates and may mean more high-magnitude shakes are on the way.
Old 19th-century trash that was dumped out to widen the city could quickly level the bottoms of many homes during a big quake. It already did once in 1989.
Experts estimate that places like the Marina neighborhood, pictured above, would today be 50% destroyed by anything higher than a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on the San Andreas Fault.
The New York Times recently estimated that more than 100 of the city's tallest buildings (higher than 22 stories) have been built in areas with a "very high" chance of liquefaction in an earthquake.
That's less likely than a Californian earthquake, because typically, tsunami waves aren't super serious once they reach San Francisco's shores. According to the city, most of the tsunamis that hit the Bay Area from Alaskan earthquakes are less than 1 foot high by the time they make landfall.
But there's still a chance that a tsunami moving in from the Cascadia subduction zone (which stretches from Canada's Vancouver Island into Northern California) could come into the Bay Area at more than 16 feet high, UC Santa Cruz earth sciences professor Steven Ward told KQED.
Thankfully, the city itself isn't perpetually threatened by wildfires, like much of the rest of the state. But the nearby vineyards of Napa Valley did not escape the 2017 wildfire season unscathed.
Many people in San Francisco took to wearing masks so they wouldn't have to breathe the smoky fumes wafting in.
Soot and chemicals released from the flames of the Camp Fire traveled more than 170 miles to San Francisco.
In the days after the devastatingly deadly fire broke out in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Environmental Protection Agency described the air quality throughout much of the Bay Area as "unhealthy" or "very unhealthy." It stayed that way for nearly two weeks.
California is currently suffering through its longest drought to date, and experts believe wildfires in the state will only become stronger and more common as the planet heats up further.
East Bay resident Will Wright, who had a near-death experience when his home burned to the ground, was inspired by the tragedy to create the wildly popular game "The Sims," according to local news site Berkeleyside.
The water level in the Bay Area has risen 8 inches over the past 100 years.
Researchers estimate that by 2100, the sea will rise anywhere from 2.4 feet to nearly 4.5 on the California coast, putting the headquarters of Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Yahoo underwater, if nothing more is done to mitigate the effects of climate change.
That's the calculation with just a modest 4 feet of sea level rise.
The natural caving-in process at work is called "subsidence," and it's happening because the city is built on heaps of trash and Holocene-era mud that's slipping away.
"Severe storms can cause landslides, coastal flooding, and stormwater ponding," the city warns. Scientists predict we'll see many more of those kinds of events in the coming years, as more "surprise" and potentially irreversible climate events crop up around the globe.
Supplying Californians with enough water is increasingly becoming an expensive problem. The Pacific Institute estimates that municipal water costs in California metro areas rose at two to three times the rate of inflation between 2000 and 2010.
California is currently suffering through its longest drought to date, which started in 2011.
With extreme weather events and heat waves on the rise around the world, people in San Francisco may have a tougher time than other Americans finding relief from scorching temperatures at home, at least in the near future.
According to the 2011 housing survey of the US Census, "the Bay Area had the lowest percentage of housing units with central air-conditioning (10%) of any region in the country," the San Francisco Business Times reports. That compares with 66% of people nationwide who said they have central air at home.
The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management suggests having enough water, nonperishable food, and flashlight batteries on hand to last about three days. Because in San Francisco, you just never know.